Saturday, July 16, 2011

Proofreading the White Paper on North Korean Human Rights

It's that time of year again - when it falls to me to proofread the English edition of the annual White Paper on North Korean Human Rights put out by our institute. It's about 350 pages of about the most depressing stuff you can imagine. On top of that, I'm never given quite enough time to do it, so consequently I have to read through it all as fast as I possibly can.
My work, cut out for me
None of this material is particularly new to me, but scanning through reams of the stuff at a dizzying pace all day long has a very numbing effect on my brain. There are public executions, tortures, forced abortions, whole families shipped off to work in mining camps - pretty rough stuff. Periodically I stumble out of my cubicle, bleary-eyed and ashen-faced, to get myself another cup of coffee.

It reminds me of that scene in the Fifth Element, when the title character is using her superpowers to absorb all of human history from an online encyclopedia in a few hours. She does fine until she gets to the Ws and hits the entry for "War" - then her eyes go wide as she scans rapidly through horrifying archival photos of battlefield atrocities, until she abruptly decides to cancel her mission to save the world. (For me that is one of the least believable scenes of the film - she got all the way to "W" before being disgusted by humankind? Really?)


Luckily for me, 98% of it has already been translated by a Korean native speaker. I just have to read it and clean up the mistakes, and translate a few sections that were added later. Actually I don't have to read the whole thing, just the newly added parts. The sections that haven't been changed are in a different font and I'm told I can skip them. However, just in scanning through I've noticed a lot of typos, poorly constructed sentences, and grammatical errors as well as a number of cut and paste errors that have mysteriously appeared since last year in the supposedly "untouched" older sections. If I'm to take credit for proofreading this, it would look bad to leave so many errors in the old sections, so I'd like to correct those parts too if time permits. Thus I'm working all weekend to get through it as fast as possible.

On the plus side, I am getting paid extra. Also, spending my days reading stuff like this tends to make me less inclined to get upset about little stresses or disappointments in my own life.

1 comment:

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